Secondhand smoke is sending kids to the ER, says new study

Pediatric tobacco smoke exposure increases health care visits and cost.

Secondhand smoke is sending kids to the ER, says new study
LIGHTITUP/Twenty20

It's no secret that secondhand smoke is harmful. It can sometimes be difficult to visualize the risks, though, especially for non-smokers.

Scientists reviewed hospital admissions data and found that children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to require an urgent care visit and be admitted to the hospital after a trip to the E.R.

A University of Cincinnati study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that compared to unexposed kids, children who were exposed to secondhand smoke were more likely to have an urgent care visit—and nearly twice as likely to be admitted to the hospital—within a one-year period.

Those hospital trips also incurred higher emergency department visit costs.


"Despite major progress in tobacco control, about four in ten children remain exposed to tobacco smoke. This exposure places developing children at higher risk for many health problems, including respiratory illnesses such as asthma, bronchiolitis and pneumonia," says lead author Ashley Merianos, an associate professor of health promotion and education in UC's School of Human Services.

The study's authors say pediatricians need to encourage parents and caretakers to make their homes and cars smoke-free.

"If every health care provider were to use each pediatric visit as an opportunity to screen and advise parents who smoke or vape to counsel parents about the dangers of secondhand and thirdhand smoke exposure to their children, rates of pediatric tobacco smoke exposure would decline," says pediatric emergency physician and senior author Melinda Mahabee-Gittens, a professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's.

We know that quitting smoking is easier said than done; it's a process that can sometimes take a long time. If you're a smoker, try to be mindful of where you're smoking. Experts say you can minimize the risks of secondhand smoke exposure by always choosing to smoke outdoors and away from shared living spaces.

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